Hardcore PC users, and the subset of hardcore PC gamers, know that keyboards are not all the same. A niche company called Epomaker has been creating a family of mechanical keyboards with some nice features for both ordinary use as well as playing Starfield or Call of Duty games.
Recently, we received the Epomaker RT100 keyboard to check out. On the surface, it doesn't look very flashy like the keyboards that Razer or SteelSeries offer. However, there's a lot going on both outside and inside that makes this keyboard a premium one for pretty much anyone who wants a quality product to type with on their PC.
The quality even extends to the packaging we received. The box that the keyboard came in has a nice design and is well. Besides the Epomaker RT100 itself, you also get a very nice USB cable that has some nice metal connections on either end. One end is a standard USB design to connect to your PC or hub, and the other is a USB-C that connects to one of the two USB-C ports on the back of the keyboard.
You also get a tool for removing the keys, along with a paper quick guide on the keyboards's features, and a special paper sheet on how to use the optional smart screen (more on that later)
Here's a quick look at the basic stats for the Epomaker RT100:
- 95% keyboard - 97 keys + 1 knob
- Hot-swappable Kailh Switch Sockets
- Keycap Material - PBT
- Keycap Profile - MDA
- Connectivity -USB-C/Bluetooth 5.0/ 2.4G wireless
- Battery Capacity - 5000mAh
- LED Direction - South-facing
- Ghost Keys - NKRO/anti-ghosting
- Dimension 397 x 147 x 30 mm
- Weight 1.35kg
The first thing you might notice right off the bat is the keyboard's retro look. It definitely looks like a keyboard that old folks like me bought for personal computers in the late 1980s or 1990s. Again, the look is not flashy but it does conjure up some nostalgic feelings.
Epomaker says the RT100 is a "gasket-mount mechanical keyboard" that includes a "Poron sandwich layer" along with a "slow-rebound bottom case foam". This is promoted by the company as a way to give a smooth experience while pressing the keys. In practice, I found this to be a true statement. The keys are very easy to press down for things like simple typing or for playing in games. While they may not have quite the tactile feel of other mechanical keyboards, I found the experience to be very nice once you got used it it, which didn't take very long.
The 97-key layout of the keyboard might not be a true full-size keyboard (it doesn't have a PrntScrn button, for example), and that may be a deal breaker for some folks who might insist on having every key. For me, the slightly more compact design of the Epomaker RT100 was very nice, as it didn't take up a lot of space, and I still had all the keys I wanted.
For those of you out there who want a lot of customizable features in the keyboard, the Epomaker RT100 does include a tool where you can take off the keycaps and hot-swap the switches. The Kailh sockets in the keyboard allow this kind of function although this is obviously for the hardcore keyboard owners who desire those kinds of functions.
The keycaps on the keyboard are made of "durable and non-greasy PBT" according to Epomaker, and they feel smooth to press on. The company says the letters and other tests printed on the keys use dye sublimation, and they should last for a long time, but obviously, I was unable to really review this particular feature in the short time I used the keyboard. However, that feature is there if you want that on your keycaps.
Using the keyboard in games, I was able to take advantage of the RT100's support for N-key rollover. This means the keyboard can respond to more than one key pressed at once, which meant I could it to switch guns while playing the new Quake II reboot while also pressing another to sprint around enemies.
While the Epomaker 100 might look like a keyboard from the 1990s when it's not plugged in, that's not the case when you connect it with the USB cable. The RGB backlighting comes into play and it's actually kind of cool to see this mashup of old-school keyboard with modern backlighting. The software that you can download for the keyboard allows you to customize the lighting with 16 premade patterns or you can make your own. The light effects also are designed to face south, so that the person who is actually using the keyboard gets the best effect.
One thing that lots of gamers might not like about the RT100 is that while there is backlighting, the key's letters on this keyboard are not backlit as well. That's something I've enjoyed with my main Logitech mechanical keyboard late at night while working or playing.
There are a few special physical features on the Epomaker RT100. There are a couple of special switches on the top right of the keyboard. One switches it so it works on Windows or Mac PC. The other switches between wired and wireless mode.
Speaking of which, there are two wireless hardware modes. There's a Bluetooth 5.0 connection that's embedded in the keyboard. You can also connect an included 2.4GHz wireless receiver to the USB backport. The keyboard has a 5,000 mAh battery for those of you who really want to use it wirelessly, but I suspect most people, including hardcore gamers, will prefer to use the USB cable for lower latency. If you do use the battery, it should last for a couple of days in normal usage with RGB lighting on.
There's also a special knob on the right corner of the keyboard that is lit up with RGB lighting. It's designed primarily as a media controller, By default, it's been set up so you can turn the knob to raise or lower the volume of your speakers or headphones. You can also press down on it pause or play any audio or video media. However, you can make it do all sorts of other things with the keyboard's software utility.
The software lets owners of the Epomaker RT100 go deep into customization mode. You can use it to adjust the sensitivity of the keys, or change the color or lighting pattern on the RGB backlighting, create special macro commands for keys, and more. You can even share your settings with other keyboard users with the software, or use the settings made by others..
And then there's the 1.25-inch mini-display. You just connect to the back USB port and set it up in the software utility. You can use it as a watch to show you the current day and time, the local temperature, the keyboard's battery level, and more. The software even comes with a art tool that lets you create your own art images that you can put in the display/
Is this a gimmick? Yes. Is it fun to look at? Absolutely. Will it be a conversation starter at your next LAN gaming event? You bet.
Overall the Epomaker RT100 has a ton of things going for it. It's a smooth experience, has some nice lighting features, can go wired or wireless, has lots of options for customization, and its mini-display, while a gimmick, is still a good one. It's also not as expensive as many mechanical keyboards that have similar features. You can purchase the version I got to review at Amazon right now for $119.99. There are also other versions with different colors on the outside and different color switches on the inside.
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